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Gentleman Driver Collection & Interview With Karim Ojjeh

Meeting Karim Ojjeh – Former Le Mans Champion

Gstaad on a Saturday morning. The small village showed its most beautiful glance, the sun was out on a rather warm winter day.  I was very excited to meet a former Le Mans Champion & the founder of KO-Racer – a Gentleman Driver Collection.

Honestly, I meet a lot of people in my job, but for a very long time I haven’t met a gentleman like Karim. His whole charism is already super fascinating. A tall and good-looking man welcomed us with a strong handshake, a clear voice and this very powerful aura. I realised, I’m meeting a champion.

gentleman driver collection

karim ojjeh

Karim, tell us something about your life and your career?

I actually started racing very late, at the age of 36,  because I decided to first concentrate on my family and education. So, I went to college and law school. In 1992, I took my wife to Laguna Seca in the US and that’s how my fascination for racing started.

What particularly fascinated you?

They were teaching us how to break and go around the corners. Honestly, I was totally exhausted physically and mentally after the first day. It requires so much concentration to race. That’s when I started to understand what racing actually meant. My fascination is all about the kick, but more than anything it’s the amount of concentration it requires – that is inspiring.

Losers have excuses, winners have a plan.

But the year it all starter was 2002, right?

Indeed, I started Formula Palmer Audi at that time. In 2004, I came 3rd in the championship. My mentor than suggested I move to prototypes.  What I’ve learned from one of my mentors is that nothing works without your team. It is like a watch movement, every single step and procedure has to work in order to get the whole thing moving.  So in 2005, I started prototype racing in Le Mans until 2011. First time we went to Le Mans we finished second. In 2008, I decided that I wanted to win Le Mans and gave myself until 2013 – so I did it, but in  2011!

What happened then?

After that fantastic year, I did the same as Nico Rosberg, stopping on the highest point of my career. There was nothing for me to prove any more – the monkey was of my back! On the other hand, I said to myself: what shall I do now, having acquired all this experience? So I negotiated with ASM and began racing GT3 with the McLaren MP4-12C GT3.  I still race GT3.

le mans champion

Karim Ojjeh presents his own Gentleman Driver Collection

KO-RACER is a new sportswear brand dedicated to gentlemen drivers. Designed to reflect the image of racing cars, KO-RACER clothing targets urban, sophisticated, thrill-seeking men. Certified Merino wool, the brand’s T- to Race shirt collections combines top quality with elegant design for a sporty clientele with high standards.

What’s your idea behind your new brand?

It’s associating you with the car. It doesn’t matter what car you drive, it can be any sort of sports car. I want to get your head into the car. So that you understand that it’s not the car, but you driving the car. It’s all about the emotions. 70% of driving is the mental aspect.

There is a unique number on the label, why is that?

Sustainability and traceability is important to us. We want you to know where your product is from, in order to make sure you understand that we deliver quality. You can track each single shirt with its own code here.

racing clothes

The quality feels great, what material is it?

Merino!  It’s a natural fiber challenging the best. The elements that makes it the top challenger: fine, versatile, natural, breathable, insulating, useable across all seasons (keeping you warm in cold temperatures and cool in warm/hot temperatures), soft, comfortable, light … you name it. The result, simply put: the best natural, precious, versatile, luxury fiber for all seasons. It feels like a second skin.

racing fashion

merino shirt

ko racer

What about the logo?

I asked my helmet designer – who has painted my helmet since the beginning – to create a logo.  When my wife, whose usually a bit picky about design and fashion, saw the logo on a shirt, she loved the mixture of my initials and racing cars.

gstaad shop

helmet le mans champion

Why did you call it Gentleman Driver Collection?

We wanted to create something you can wear when driving a sports car. However, we don’t want people to drive too fast when wearing the shirt associating it with driving a race.

Last but not least, describe a gentleman.

Anybody that feels himself like a gentleman, can be one.  Again, it’s in the mind.  It’s as simple as that.

Besides, he took me on a ride with his McLaren 570s….

Is The Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio Finally A Quality Car?

Alfa Romeo – Introduction

No doubt, Alfa Romeo is producing beautiful cars since decades. Usually, their models are like a tremendous piece of art that simply suits into every sort of environment. Especially the old ones like the Giulietta Berlina or the 2600 sprint just look fantastic. But let’s say, the have a bit of an issue with the quality since ever. But now, they come up with the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. After reading through plenty of articles, I was totally excited about this particular model. Even the best and most sceptical journalists gave it a thumbs up.

Pictures and rights by Sébastien Rohner

So what was my first impression?

Wow, what a beast! The Giulia is such a tremendous car, I’m still mind-blown by its look and performance. But the most outstanding fact is probably the amount of times I was in a conversation with random people approaching me where ever I stopped over. I couldn’t refuel without ending up being in a conversation with plenty of car enthusiasts.

But why is that happening?

Well, that has many reasons of course. One might be, it is a brand new car not seen that often on the street. Another reason might be the mixture of beauty and monstrosity the Quadrifoglio harmonizes in the most perfect way. And finally the performance…

Wait, Alfa just built a performance car?

Jesus, yes. Imagine, they just broke the record for a four-door saloon on the Nürburgring. It is 13 seconds faster than it’s competitor – the BMW M3. THIRTEEN! That is light years in racing times. It is insanely fast.

Sounds fascinating! In numbers?

They’re using the same engine than the Ferrari California T – 2 cylinders removed. It’s a 2,9 Litre V6 that produces 510bhp – twin turbo charged.

The chassis is aluminium and steel, the 19-inch wheels are held in place by double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension, it’s rear-drive only, the torque divvied up by a vectoring diff able to send 100 per cent of thrust to either wheel.

There’s also 50:50 weight distribution, the wheels are deliriously beautiful, the bodywork is sculptural, elegant, achingly desirable. But let’s summarise this again

  • 510bhp / 600Nm torque
  • Fastest four-door saloon on the Nürburgring
  • Torque vectoring technology provides the differential with the ability to vary the torque to each wheel.
  • 3,9 seconds 0-100 km/h
  • 307 km/h top speed (!)

What about the steering?

Yet again, brilliant work. It’s let’s say soft-ish but throws you into corners like a real sports car. The steering is definitely one of my favorite aspects about the Giulia Quadrifoglio. It sort of feels like Ferrari just built an Alfa Romeo.

The carbon brakes are intense, aren’t they?

They are, but you’re paying almost 10k extra for it. Just been explained by a Le Mans champion that you actually don’t need carbon brakes, they make more sense on the track because you have to warm them up in order to get the full power. This might be a good advice to get it for a more reasonable price.

Some words about the design…

Che bella! They just managed to build a really good-looking car. There is carbon fibre where ever you look at… The spoiler, it’s bonnet, the seats and the roof are made of carbon fibre. The exhaust makes it looking truly mad. It’s all about this harmony of an aggressive look with an astonishing beauty combined.

Besides, the carbon fibre seats are way more comfy than I expected!

Any disadvantages?

Difficult to find – but yes there are some.

  • Why on earth are they still building manual gearboxes with such feature of performance? To satisfy the enthusiasts maybe? I’m not sure. The automatic gearbox is another 6 seconds faster on the Nürburgring and I’m definitely looking forward to drive it – just because I know exactly it will be a change for the better.
  • The oil sensor started to complain with cold temperatures
  • The wind noise on the motorway are too intense

Would you buy it and is it finally a quality car?

The car is fantastic and I absolutely love it. It’s 100k with the manual gearbox and the ceramic brakes. So far, I’m not sure if i’d buy it- but I guess I will be sure as soon as I have tested the automatic gearbox… stay tuned!

Winterfahrtraining With Volvo Switzerland

Introduction

A gentleman, at least from my perspective, stands for a couple of values. Values like sustainability, safety, endurance or the attention for other humans. And it’s exactly the ideology Volvo represents. What ever car we’re driving, it is also a statement. Owning a Volvo stands for restraint, understatement and a lot of love for quality.

Lately, my girlfriend bought a Volvo S60. From the very beginning she had all my support for this decision. Simply because I really think you get a quality car with a fantastic persistency and resale value.

source: customimages.ch

source: customimages.ch

source: customimages.ch

Winterfahrtraining With Volvo Switzerland

Alright, back to the fun part. I clearly remember when my friends and me were still ‘boys’. At the very first snow, we took the cars to drift around a huge parking area. And now with an age of 31, it remains the same. It simply belongs to the boyish events even a grown man or woman simply loves to do: drifting in the snow.

Driving on snow is different than any other terrain

Safety first: A car behaves totally different on snow. Every single step has to be calculated and expected differently than the situations we’re used to. Let me list a couple of points which seem to be important to me

  • Snow tires are an absolute must – don’t drive with summer tires
  • Slow down. Breaking or stopping takes way longer than under usual conditions
  • React early. (remind, everything takes longer).
  • Accelerate carefully, loads of wheelspin doesn’t bring you anywhere
  • Driving downhill requires more attention (for the same reason than point 2 & 3)
  • If you’re stuck, it can help to release throttle or start in second gear (to avoid wheelspin)
  • In case you end up oversteering or understeering – go on the breaks.

source: customimages.ch

Our day started pretty cold…

My display showed -23 degrees in the morning. It was super cold and just a fantastic day! The sun was out and not a single cloud on the sky. A whole airfield covered with snow, a couple of tests to accomplish and plenty of amazing Volvo cars… what can possible be better?

Test 1 – Speed up to 70km/h, break & avoid an upcoming obstacle

Job was, to speed up to 70km/h, then brake and avoid an obstacle. Sounds easy, no? Isn’t easy on snow. Great experience and guess who had the speed record?

Test 2 – Offroad

Volvo’s Offroad mode is one of the most advanced technologies in the market. The XC90 for example, manages 100% slope with activating different wheels and therefor the car manages this all by itself. Absolutely nothing you have to do, other than trust Volvo’s technology.

As well uphill works brilliant with the advanced 4wheel drive system.

Test 3 – Drifting & Slalom

This is definitely a lot of fun. My lesson here: drifting in the snow only works with releasing the throttle which puts the weight to the front wheels = the back drifts. But, just watch the video;)

A Gentleman’s Résumé

Wow, we had such a great time with a lovely team. Hard to top the ‘fun-factor’! I’m looking much forward to further work with Volvo Switzerland.

source: otto carlin